President Donald Trump’s State of the Union doubled down on his demand for funding for a border wall. He also lashed out against the multiple investigations into wrongdoing by his campaign, calling them partisan and unfair.
Raw Story spoke with clinical psychologist Edwin B. Fisher, Professor with the Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Fisher is a contributor to the book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess of President.” Fisher posits that critical mental capacity is crucial in a president.
Tana Ganeva: What struck you most about Trump’s SOTU performance?
Dr. Edwin B. Fisher: Generally, the substance of the speech was not that revealing of the President’s characteristics that we have criticized as illustrating his dangerousness. The bombastic style was barely kept in check and the frequent war metaphors and talk of “united at home to defeat enemies abroad” and of having gotten “bad guys” and “monsters” revealed the preoccupation with winning and strength.
It also projected the paranoid view of the work as full of those who will do us harm, the only protection being to beat, defeat, and kill them.
These link with the other characteristics, less apparent tonight, of needing to dominate, lack of concern or empathy for others, view of the world as always a zero-sum game, and reckless willingness to put all at risk to protect the fragile sense of self that have been so evident in his behavior and that lead the authors of The Dangerous Case to say he is very much a danger.
The language about “war and investigation” making impossible negotiation and compromise was peculiar in several ways. First, it put his welfare vis a vis investigations as central to the ability of the government to work – certainly an outrageously egocentric position.
Second, it may have been a threat – was “war” a threatened response to “investigation”? Clearly, this odd language that fell with a thud in the chamber seemed the breaking through of the dangerous, self centered and self preoccupied, reckless behavior that has drawn such concern as being the characteristics of those who wreak havoc on others. As he put the government on hold and 800,000 federal employees in duress in order to try to get his wall, he seemed to be threatening the same kind of selfish and harmful behavior and actions if investigations are not ended.
Of course there were the usual distortions and lies regarding the economy and the attribution of credit for current employment figures and stock prices. This is the con. The comfort in lies may be not per se dangerous, but reflects the same willingness to ignore all other imperatives (e.g., telling the truth to the American people) in order to advance the self – that is dangerous.
The insensitivity to others seemed apparent to me in using the daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter of a couple killed just 2 or 3 weeks ago as props to push the argument and lie that undocumented residents are somehow a source of a great deal of crime and suffering. In fact, they are less likely to commit crimes than US citizens.
Perhaps the most outrageously self absorbed, narcissistic moment was the claim that if he had not been elected President, we’d be at war on the Korean peninsula. Shades of “only I can fix it.”
Finally, cynical manipulation. After all the talk of cooperation and working together, the gratuitous stick in the eye over “socialism” that amounted to schoolyard, “go ahead, I dare you to say you’re a socialist.”
Tana Ganeva: What about Democrats’ reactions during the address?
Dr. Edwin B. Fisher: I thought the Democrats were restrained. He constantly put them in a difficult position in which the text of his comments was unassailable pro American, patriotic language but the subtext code for his very divisive views. Who could not rise to applaud three generations of daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter whose parents were recently killed by an illegal resident, but then we know the subtext of their being there was to vilify brown people from Latin America as all dangerous “bad guys.”
Tana Ganeva: How do you think was the reaction to displays of protest, such as the female lawmakers dressed in white?
Dr. Edwin B. Fisher: They generally applauded what was applaudable and sat in polite if not actively respectful silence in response to what wasn’t. In this, they avoided being egged into relinquishing being the grownups in the room. The Rs jumping up and down for the lines that everyone knows are lies – the caravans, the need for more troops on the border, seemed to diminish them, but perhaps not in the eyes of “their base.”
I thought the Ds came off well, especially when they rose and took the line about more women in the workplace, pointed to each other and celebrated it. Donald Trump handled that well himself by going along with it and then saying some nice words about the number of women in congress, ignoring however disproportion in R and D sides of the aisle.
Tana Ganeva: Or Democrats bringing guests that highlight Trump policy failures such as a mother and child separated at the border?
Dr. Edwin B. Fisher: Didn’t get much attention. Not sure it did or would have worked very well.
Tana Ganeva: Given what you think you know about Trump’s mental issues and personality type, how do you think he’s reacting to current conflicts, such as funding for a border wall?
Dr. Edwin B. Fisher: He seems to have dug in on the wall. I thought he might have tried to finesse the issue by talking about barriers, etc. and not using “wall,” but he made a point of using it.